Graham Burke

Graham Burke

Graham Burke made his first team debut during the 2012-13 season - and fired Villa to European glory.

The Republic of Ireland youth international was given his first taste of senior football in the Capital One Cup ties against Tranmere Rovers and Bradford City.

He also continued his impressive form for the U21 and NextGen Series sides.

Burke scored five goals in 15 appearances in the Barclays U21 Premier League campaign as his partnership with compatriot Michael Drennan continued to blossom.

But it was on the European stage that Burke really flourished.

He scored some big goals during Villa's NextGen triumph, including a brace in the 5-1 win away at Sporting Lisbon and the winner in the quarter-final against Olympiacos at Villa Park.

Then he was the man on the spot at the finals weekend in Lake Como, converting a penalty in the semi-final victory over Sporting before converting two decisive spot-kicks in the final against Chelsea as Villa lifted the trophy.

Burke first caught the attention of Villa supporters during an impressive cameo in a pre-season friendly against Walsall at the start of the 2011-12 campaign.

The Dublin-born attacker was called up to the first team squad on several occasions by former boss Alex McLeish, making the bench for the Carling Cup clash against Bolton and the Barclays Premier League showdown against Liverpool three months later.

Another of Villa's prodigious talents from the Emerald Isle, Burke netted four times in 15 outings for the reserves that season.

He was also a central figure in a brilliant 4-1 win over Rosenborg in the NextGen Series, scoring two goals in the big European encounter at Villa Park.

While Burke spent the first year of his academy scholarship operating mainly as a striker, he spent a lot of his second year in a deep-lying midfield role.

The teenager initially burst on to the scene by scoring the first goal of the club's 2010-11 pre-season campaign.

Burke was only 16 at the time and found himself lining up in a Villa squad featuring the likes of Luke Young, Carlos Cuellar and Marc Albrighton to face non-league Basingstoke.

It had been an underwhelming warm-up game for the claret and blues who slipped to a two-goal deficit before Burke came off the bench and surged into the box to fire past the goalkeeper.

It was a sign of things to come. Burke went on to enjoy a terrific season in the academy league, FA Youth Cup and the Barclays Premier Reserves League, scoring 14 times in total.

His two strikes for the reserves - in victories over Wolves and West Bromwich Albion - came from just three starts.

Burke went on to make a further seven appearances from the bench for Kevin MacDonald's team.

He also chipped in with some important goals en route to the academy league title but it was in the 2010-11 FA Youth Cup where he showed his true quality.

A game-changing cameo from the bench against Peterborough, including a powerful drive across the goalkeeper in extra time, inspired a remarkable Villa comeback.

The Irishman was equally impressive in the following rounds against Leeds United and Middlesbrough with a goal in each.

The manner in which he took his goal against Boro was majestic - a thumping left-foot volley at the back post giving the goalkeeper no chance.

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